Regulations that will allow councils to increase planning fees by 20% will be introduced by the government “at the earliest opportunity” as it proposes to introduce a single method for calculating areas’ housing needs.
The methodology sets out plans to build 266,000 homes annually, a figure described by communities secretary Sajid Javid as a 5% increase nationally on what councils had estimated that they needed to build through their local plans.
Calculations will largely be based on the Office for National Statistics’ household projections.
Mr Javid said the housing needs of 148 authorities would fall by an average of 28% in comparison to what they are currently predicting. In the 156 areas where the assessed need increases, the average rise is 35%.
“We are not attempting to micro-manage local development,” said Mr Javid in a speech to MPs. “It will be up to local authorities to apply these estimates in their own areas.
“We’re not dictating targets from on-high. All we are doing is setting out a clear, consistent process for assessing what may be needed in the years to come.
“How to meet the demand, whether it’s possible to meet the demand, where to develop, where not to develop, what to develop, how to work with neighbouring authorities and so on remains a decision for local authorities and local communities.”
Martin Tett (Con), the Local Government Association housing spokesman, said: “There could be benefits to having a standard approach to assessing the need for housing, but a formula drawn up in Whitehall can never fully understand the complexity and unique needs of local housing markets, which vary significantly from place to place.”
District Councils’ Network chair John Fuller (Con) agreed, stating: “We have concerns that a national formula may never take into account all local constraints but, whilst contentious, this may provide greater certainty in plan making and speed up the process in some cases - an outcome which would be welcomed. Our members will want to be reassured that where there are overriding environment or infrastructure constraints that this must be taken into account in the plan making process.”
Both Cllr Tett and Cllr Fuller called on the government to give councils greater fiscal freedoms to build more homes.
Cllr Fuller did, however, welcome the government’s confirmation of its plan to let councils increase planning fees by 20% but only if all income generated from an increase in planning fees is invested in planning departments.
The Department for Communities & Local Government’s consultation, published yesterday, said: ”We welcome that all local planning authorities chose to make the commitment and on this basis we will bring forward regulations at the earliest opportunity which, subject to parliamentary scrutiny, enable local authorities to increase fees.”
The DCLG is also seeking views on a commitment made in the housing white paper to let some councils “who are delivering the homes their communities need” have the power to increase fees by a further 20%.
“We are interested in obtaining views on the most appropriate criteria to enable this fee increase to be applied,” the consultation said.